Kinlochleven – Corrour Old Lodge
13 April 2012
30.1 km/1130 m/11:00 hrs
As part of my ongoing TGO Challenge training, I planned a route combining routes No. 221, 219, 217, 143 and 142 from “Scottish Hill Tracks”, with a slight variation at the start (a detour to Loch Eilde Mòr).
I parked in the Grey Mare’s Tail car park in Kinlochmore and climbed up the steep, eroded path along the Allt a’ Chumhainn. Between the trees I had already caught some glimpses of Loch Leven, but above the trees, when the path levels out, the loch comes into full view.
The path joins the Landrover track that leads along the north bank of Loch Eilde Mòr, but leaves it again after a few hundred metres to skirt around the southern end of the loch.
A small dam crosses the Allt na h-Eilde near the outflow of the loch.
From the path on the south side of the loch, I had a good view to Na Gruagaichean and Sgòr Eilde Beag.
The Aonach Eagach ridge (zoomed).
The Grey Corries.
Looking back, Beinn na Caillich on the left, and Am Bodach and Na Gruagaichean on the right.
After passing Meall na Cruaidhe, the Blackwater Reservoir comes into sight.
A rain shower approaching…
On my way to Loch Chiarain I met the only other walker that day, but he seemed to be in a hurry and didn’t stop for a chat. I made it to the bothy just before the rain started.
While I had my lunch break, I read a bit in the bothy book. There were quite a few entries from last May, when several Challengers had found shelter from the bad weather.
When I turned round a few minutes after leaving the bothy, I could see some nice reflections of the sun shining through a gap in the dark clouds.
But it didn’t take long until a hail shower started.
Within minutes, the landscape was looking almost wintry.
It had been very windy and cold during the shower, but as soon as it stopped and the sun came out, it was nice and warm again.
I followed the path along the Allt Fèith Chiarain, and when I reached Gleann Iolairean, I could see Ben Nevis and Aonach Beag to my left…
… and Loch Treig in front of me.
At the south end of the loch, I joined the wide track that leads all the way to Loch Ossian.
I noticed a perfect wildcamp spot directly by the loch:
There are several potential camp sites near the railway bridge further up the track, and I think these are quite popular, but in case there are any freight trains at night, they might just be a bit noisy!
Corrour Station with Leum Uilleim behind.
Unfortunately, the station restaurant is still closed, otherwise I would have had a bar meal in there (I loved their haggis, neeps & tatties!).
Loch Ossian and the Ben Alder hills in the background.
Loch Ossian YH.
Walking past the hostel, I was close to asking if they had vacancies, because the thought of an evening in front of the fireplace and a night in a proper bed was quite tempting.
But I had planned to walk a bit further that evening, and it was very likely they were fully booked anyway – I had checked the SYHA website at home and today’s date was marked orange, meaning “Call hostel for availability”.
So instead I followed the path up the hillside to Peter’s Rock.
Looking across the loch to Corrour Lodge.
The sun setting above the loch.
Peter’s Rock, a monument for a young man who drowned in the loch.
When the path starts skirting around Carn Dearg, the views across Rannoch Moor open up.
Blackwater Reservoir and the Black Mount hills.
Meall a’ Bhùiridh and Creise (zoomed).
The sun was just setting when I reached Corrour Old Lodge, my planned camp site for the night.
After the sun was gone, it became really cold. I quickly pitched the tent and washed my hands in the stream afterwards, before unpacking my rucksack and preparing my dinner.
Although this took only a few seconds, the water was so cold that I completely lost any feeling in my hands, I couldn’t even unclip the rucksack straps! It took me about ten minutes to warm up my hands so that I could use them again…
At night I had to get out of the tent and found this:
Corrour Old Lodge – Kingshouse Hotel
14 April 2012
30.7 km/349 m/09:00 hrs
View from my tent shortly after 07:00 🙂
An hour later, the sun had already melted most of the snow.
Not a bad view from my door!
The tent was completely dry when I packed it away, and in the sun it was even warmer than the day before.
Looking back to Corrour Old Lodge.
I continued along the western flank of Carn Dearg, and soon the previously boggy path became a well maintained, dry track. When I reached the Allt Eigheach, I crossed it on a footbridge.
The Allt Eigheach and the Corbett Beinn Pharlagain.
Loch Laidon and the Black Mount hills.
The Bridge of Orchy Munros.
After walking along the road for about 30 minutes I arrived at Rannoch Station.
I didn’t even check if the tearoom was open, because it’s always been closed when I was there in the past. But I wanted a sheltered place for my lunch break, and as there are no benches or anything else to sit down, I just sat on the floor in the small information hut/shelter on the car park.
After my break, I passed the level crossing beside the station and followed the track towards the forest. It is even signposted!
The beach at the eastern end of Loch Laidon.
The Bridge of Orchy Munros – Beinn a’ Chreachain, Beinn Achaladair and Beinn an Dothaid.
I was very impressed by those hills, until then I had not climbed any Munros south of Glencoe, and I decided to climb these ones as soon as possible (and two months later I did actually camp on the bealach right in the centre of the photo).
The track through the forest was sheltered and in the sunny weather it was very warm. I couldn’t be bothered to get changed every few minutes, so I just rolled the sleeves of my jacket up and opened all the venting zips. As soon as I left the forest, the wind picked up and it was almost cold enough for gloves and a hat… very strange weather, somehow.
Out of the forest, the “Footpath to Glencoe” soon turned into this:
The path disappeared and re-appeared a few times, and I just kept walking in the general direction of Buachaille Etive Mòr.
At some point I managed to lose the path completely, and as much as I tried, I couldn’t find it anymore. I wasn’t able to navigate to it, because the terrain was quite featureless apart from a few small lochans, and I just couldn’t estimate how far away I was from them.
I ended up stumbling through bog, heather and water for about two hours, trying to find the path higher up, lower down or just heading in a westerly direction.
Eventually I could make out the trees around Black Corries Lodge in the distance, and headed straight towards them. About two km before the lodge I found the track, accidentally – I had been looking for it much too far south.
Not a particularly nice track, but I was so happy to have found it!
From this point on it was easy going, I walked around Black Corries Lodge after which the track improved and became almost a road, and arrived at the Kingshouse Hotel soon after.
I pitched my tent near the river, freshened up a bit and walked over to the Climbers’ bar, intending to have a bar meal and a few drinks. But after the first pint of cider, I only managed another half, and even then, I could hardly keep my eyes open. So I left rather early and had a very good sleep.
Kingshouse Hotel – Kinlochleven
15 April 2012
14.75 km/430 m/04:00 hrs
I woke up to a clear, but freezing cold morning.
Soon I realised that it had been a mistake to pitch the tent so close to the river, because my tent was in the shadow, while most of the others caught the morning sun.
Packing up the tent, my hands became so cold again that I could hardly move them. In the end I dragged the tent and my rucksack up to the road and finished packing in the sun.
Info sign about the free campsite.
From the Kingshouse Hotel I followed the West Highland Way, which runs parallel to the A82.
Looking back to the hotel, with Meall a’ Bhùiridh and Creise behind.
Walking towards Buachaille Etive Mòr – the first section is on tarmac, but soon the WHW continues on a good path slightly above the main road.
Buachaille Etive Mòr.
I could hardly take my eyes off the Buachaille, wishing I was on its summit instead of down in the glen. But there was still a substantial amount of snow on the top, and I know that even the easiest route up Coire na Tulaich can be dangerous in these conditions.
Stob Dearg’s North Buttress with Curved Ridge and Crowberry Tower on the left.
At Altnafeadh the path leaves the road and climbs up to the bealach between Stob Mhic Mhartuin and Beinn Bheag. The walk up the “Devil’s Staircase” is actually quite pleasant, as the well maintained path zigzags up the hillside at an easy angle.
Looking back to Buachaille Etive Mòr, Coire na Tulaich visible left of centre.
At the highest point of the pass.
Ben Nevis (zoomed).
The WHW to Kinlochleven follows the Old Military Road, winding its way through some forested areas further down. I didn’t find this section particularly exciting, and it seemed to go on forever…
When I arrived in Kinlochleven, I thought I’d take a shortcut after crossing the bridge. But I had packed my map away already, and I ended up getting a bit lost in a residential area. I only found the car park after asking some locals for directions…
This had been a great walk, the weather had been mixed, but mainly warm and sunny during the days (and freezing cold at night!). The wild camp at Corrour Old Lodge was one of the best, with fantastic views across Rannoch Moor on a cold, but sunny morning.